March 9, 1998
Mr. Jerry Brixner
14 Hartom Road
Rochester, NY 14624
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your correspondence.
Dear Mr. Brixner:
I have received your letter of February 5 addressed to the Comptroller, the Attorney General and myself in which you raised questions concerning the legal notice requirements relating to hearings held by a town board.
In this regard, as you are aware, the advisory jurisdiction of the Committee on Open Government pertains to the Open Meetings Law. That statute pertains to meetings of public bodies, which must be preceded by notice given in accordance with §104 of that statute. A meeting, however, is different from a hearing, and the notice requirements differ.
A meeting is generally a gathering of quorum of a public body for the purpose of discussion, deliberation, and potentially taking action within the scope of its powers and duties. A hearing is generally held to provide members of the public with an opportunity to express their views concerning a particular subject, such as a proposed budget, a local law or a matter involving land use. Hearings are usually required to be preceded by the publication of a legal notice. In contrast, §104(3) of the Open Meetings Law specifies that notice of a meeting must merely be "given" to the news media and posed. Further, there is no requirement that a newspaper, for example,
publish a notice given regarding a meeting to be held under the Open Meetings Law.
There is no general provision that relates to legal notice that must be given prior to hearings. Those requirements are usually found in the sections of law dealing with the subject or activity at issue. For example, while towns, villages and school districts all must hold public hearings on their proposed budgets, there are separate provisions in the Town Law, the Village Law and the Education Law dealing with each. In short, notice requirements may differ, depending on the nature of the hearing.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding of the matter and that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Carl M. McCall, Comptroller
Dennis Vacco, Attorney General